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Majority sides with hotel in lawsuit stemming from molestation

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A divided Indiana Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment for a hotel, its owner and the hotel franchisor that the hotel’s insurance company had no duty to defend a civil complaint brought by a minor motel guest who was molested by an off-duty employee.

R.H.M. was a guest at the New Castle Holiday Inn Express owned by Anil Megha when employee Michael Forshey entered his locked room at night and molested him. Forshey has been convicted of child molestation. R.H.M.’s mom sued the hotel, the franchisor Holiday Hospitality and Megha, claiming, among other things, battery, negligent retention and supervision, and negligent hiring.

AMCO Insurance Co., which insured the Holiday Inn Express, claimed it owed no coverage for any liability from the complaint and it had no duty to defend any of the defendants. Holiday Hospitality and Megha were listed as additional insureds. The policy expressly disclaimed coverage for acts of molestation or abuse by excluding any bodily injury or personal or advertising injury arising from the actual or threatened abuse or molestation by anyone of any person while in the care, custody or control of the insured.”

The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding a genuine issue of material fact as to whether R.H.M. was in the care, custody or control of the hotel at the time of the molestation.

In Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc. v. AMCO Insurance Company, 33S01-1206-CT-312, Justice Steven David, writing for the majority, affirmed summary judgment for the insurance company. Focusing on the “care, custody or control” portion of the policy and using those terms’ definitions from Webster’s Dictionary, David and Justices Mark Massa and Loretta Rush found the child was not in the custody or control of the hotel, but he was in the care of the hotel at the time of the molestation.

“Simply put, we believe these facts reflect precisely the sort of scenario contemplated by the parties to be excluded from coverage when they agreed to the insurance contract,” David wrote.  
 
Chief Justice Brent Dickson concurred in a separate opinion, believing the proper understanding of “care” is established by Indiana law that a hotel guest is considered a business invitee and is entitled to a reasonable duty of care. In this case, “care” exists as a matter of law, so the exclusion applies.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, believing it should be up to the trier of fact as to whether R.H.M. was under the control or care of the hotel.

 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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